Embracing ethnic and global flavours on your menu

By Nandini Roy Chadry

Today’s consumers are on the lookout for sophisticated and exotic cuisines infused with unique ingredients and bold flavours. With the rapid movement of people from one part of the world to another, the need for traditional food items that they are used to consuming is rising. This has created a massive market for ethnic cuisine and global inspiration on restaurant menus.

North America is showcasing a growing demand for ethnic flavours on the back of the rising popularity of international cuisines and the trend for multiculturalism. Menus saw 70 per cent more appearances of globally-inspired dishes on menus in 2023, with carne asada featured 37.5 per cent more often, and jerk chicken appearing on 25.5 per cent more menus.

A mission to offer ethnic Asian flavours

Several start-up firms are emerging in the global food and beverage industry. Companies like Omsom are striving to follow in the footsteps of industry giants, such as Chipotle and CAVA, to popularize ethnic flavours among millennials and Gen Z. Both companies have created a loyal customer base with an array of Mexican and Mediterranean items on the menu.

Omsom, based in New York, is currently focusing on expanding its presence in the ethnic packaged food segment, launching a range of spicy Asian packaged noodles and cooking sauces for consumers.

As per the company officials, Asian foods are rapidly gaining traction throughout the United States. However, many grocery stores across the country have not been stocking up on traditional spices and condiments that consumers are looking for, making them mostly available to restaurant diners.

Street food business raises revenues

Penarth, located in the Vale of Glamorgan, witnessed the opening of Gimme Momo, a novel pop-up street food business, in August 2023. The mobile business specializes in street food from Nepal, providing delivery service to consumers looking for home-cooked meals. It follows a unique practice, announcing dates of operation on social media platforms and running two or three weekends in a month.

Gimme Momo is operated by Nepal-based Santi Howard-Krelle, who moved to Sully with her husband in 2022. After noting the lack of Nepalese cuisine in the area, she took the opportunity to fill a gap in the market, appealing to diners looking for unique dishes and flavours that they could enjoy at home.

Flavour enhancers and authentic ingredients

As the demand grows for authentic spices, sauces, and condiments on restaurant menus, the ethnic food business is estimated to showcase the entry of new players. The flavour and flavour enhancer market is set to surge at a 3.9 per cent (a compound annual growth rate) through 2032. Increasing demand for processed ethnic food items is projected to propel the need for flavour enhancers in the forecast time period. In addition, the high demand for food items with minimal levels of fat, salt, sugar, and carbohydrate content is compelling, leading players to come up with organically developed enhancers, further increasing interest, upping the quality of products and increasing health benefits for consumers.

In our highly globalized world, cultural fusion is expected to add adventure, excitement, and novelty to international food and drinks, and global influences are gaining even more traction on menus as diners crave new dishes and experiences. Not only are diners looking to enjoy ethnic experiences at the restaurant, but many are looking for restaurant-quality meals with authentic, global flavours to enjoy at home. Restaurants looking to attract attention and level up their menus need to incorporate globally-inspired dishes, experiment with unique flavours, and gain inspiration from the flavours of the world.

Nandini Roy Choudhury has an MBA in Finance from MIT School of Business. She also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from Nagpur University, India. Nandini has authored several publications, and quoted in journals including Beverage Industry, Bloomberg, and Wine Industry Advisor.